3D printing is a meme. It is the Medium and the Message. It’s popularity comes at a time when other associated technologies are coming online and further disrupting established ways of working, making and representing the world around us. The rhetoric of digital fabrication is that people “can make anything.” This is not true – of course. But we are getting closer to this myth, everyday. A powerful nexus point of internet driven applications, cloud computing, ubiquitous optical scanners, easy to use software and a public hungry for making things is bringing manufacturing back in a big way.
The “possibilities are (becoming) endless.” We are now at a point in history where scarcity is itself – (until the resources run out) – scarce. Rare antiquities are entered into the digital universe via cheap 3D scanning software. They are mashed up into an infinite array of permutations and re-entered into the cultural food chain. Objects are transmitted as code via the Internet around the world, even to space and back again. Once downloaded these geometries are inscribed into machine code and cut from or fused together at the push of a button. Designers have a direct connection to both their manufacturers and their end users. The feedback loop is much tighter than ever before, turtles all the way down.
Tom Burtonwood is an artist and educator based in the Chicago area. Like many people he discovered 3D printing by way of the laser cutter and quickly became enamored by the alchemy of it all. Recent projects include Orihon “the world’s first” 3D printed book, which was featured on The Huffington Post, Boing Boing, The Paris Review and Tech Crunch. His 3D printed art works have been exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum at World Maker Faire in New York; and at the Bruce High Quality Foundation University in New York; Terrain Biennial in Oak Park; Medium Cool Book Fair, Chicago; Fuseworks and Front Room Gallery both in Brooklyn, New York; New Capital in Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center. Burtonwood has presented his work and demonstrated 3D printing at numerous events and venues including The United States Department of Labor Administration, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Ideas Week, kCura, Pecha Kucha Chicago, 6018 North and Columbia College Chicago. He is a contributor to Make Magazine and his reviews are included in the current Make Magazine Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014. Burtonwood teaches at both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. He is currently working on a new 3D printed book project with Chicago cultural historian Tim Samuelson. It will be an architectural reference book of Louis Sullivan’s early decorative ornaments.